In an online question-and-answer session with fans Thursday, Giants CEO Larry Baer said the team isn't lowballing Matt Cain and that a hard-and-fast deadline has not been set as the two sides continue to negotiate a new contract.

That's not the impression Cain has.

"If the season starts, I think that's the cutoff," he said Thursday night after pitching seven strong innings against the Texas Rangers. "We're not going to drag something into the season and have that lingering over our heads. (General manager Brian) Sabean has been great about it and open about it.

"He wants us, once the season starts, to be worried about this season."

The Giants and Cain's representatives have negotiated throughout the spring, and Cain, a potential free agent after this season, has said he is just looking for fair value.

Baer said the sides "just keep plugging along."

"There's been a lot of mischaracterizations," Baer said. "Those are uneducated. I can't promise it will or won't happen -- that's going to ultimately be the process of negotiation and Matt's decision."

Many of the questions to Baer took on a harsh tone, a reality that he said he understands, especially in lieu of the record sale this week of the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

But Baer said the Giants aren't concerned about the immediate impact that the $2 billion sale might have on the National League West, pointing out that the Giants' payroll

already is about $40 million more than the Dodgers.